Kieran Doe is contemplating taking an indefinite break from triathlons to sort out his lingering health problems.
The dreadlocked former Port of Tauranga half ironman champion had another agonising day at this year's event, pulling out on the run after a sudden loss of power during Saturday's bike leg.
It continued a dismal twelve months for the long-distance star, who suffered severe stomach problems while leading the race a year ago and again at the world championships late last year.
"It seems from last year I just can't get back on top of things," a frustrated Doe said, just before leaving his mum's Mount Maunganui home yesterday and heading back to Auckland. "I don't know what's causing it but the body's just not working at the moment.
"I felt fantastic on the first 45km on the bike, strong and powerful just like I used to. I was putting time into them easily and all of a sudden, my legs locked and I went dizzy and light-headed."
After leading out of the water and opening a 3-minute gap on James Bowstead in the first half of the bike leg, Doe then came back into the field. Bowstead and eventual winner Michael Poole surged past, and Doe pulled out in dismay halfway through the run.
"All of a sudden, it's like my body's stopped processing lactic acid and it's not getting oxygen through the blood.
"It's basically suffocating the muscles - that's what it feels like anyway.
"I've talked to a couple of specialists already and they want to test my blood and liver and kidneys and I'm going to get a whole heap more tests done."
If it's a quick fix, he'll still look to line up at Ironman New Zealand in Taupo in March, but if not, he'll also talk to sponsors and supporters about taking a break, mindful of how that has benefited him in the past. "All my best results and best seasons have come after a really big break - I had that crash at Tinman and was forced to have four months out of the sport and I won Ironman Canada which was my first race back.
"I'm going to start from the beginning again and see if I can find out once and for all."
Saturday's race was the seventh time he's lined up at the Tauranga race and his record is mixed apart from his 2008 win.
He's had two seconds, a third and a fourth, while he came within millimetres of a broken leg at the 2006 Tinman which could have cost him his career.
Typically upbeat, the 28-year-old's over-riding feeling is of frustration.
"People thought I'd blown on the bike but I don't think I've ever blown up on the bike. I get tired and slack off a bit but I don't blow up. The thing that baffles me is that I've done training sessions harder than that and been fine.
"I went for an hour run yesterday and felt great. I'd like to find out and sort it."